Junaman thread – Empiricism vs. Rationalism – Pt 1

This thread was brought here from this post to make things more readable.

“Hmm. If that’s the case, a few more questions:
1. What do you think about empiricism?
2. What is your current opinion of god?
and
3. What would you call solid proof?”

Sorry, I was procrastinating over your question for a while.,

It’s cool, I know the feeling. You should see some of my emails. And the dates I respond to them by.

1. I’m not exactly sure whether I agree with empiricism or not as I do not exactly know what it encompasses.

You can find a good definition at Wikipedia – see the entry. Basically, it’s the idea that knowledge is gained through experience alone, vs. being gained through rationalism. You could say that creation vs. evolution is something of a throwback to these ideas, where creationism might relate more to empiricism (God exists because of the testimony of others) and evolution might relate more to rationalism (scientific method).

I do not agree with what jeannie49 said about faith, where she applied it to having faith whether a computer works or not. I believe that you know if a computer works from past experience.

This is actually an empiricist view of how a computer works.

The first time you turn it on, you find that it works, and hence you assume that the next time you do so, it will work again as nothing in your knowledge has changed inside the computer. If it does not work, then you realise that something has changed/was broken and you get someone to fix it.
I do not see how faith is involved in that.

Actually, faith is totally involved in it. Unless you’re a computer engineer or technician who both knows the theory behind the workings of a computer and has built the computer himself out of parts he has made personally, it would be impossible to say that faith wasn’t involved in at least a minute part of the process.

Even so, he must have faith in whomever sold the materials to him to be as stated. So faith becomes a part of the process regardless of theoretical knowledge and prior experience.

The example could have been a little bit better, but I think Jeannie sums it up pretty well:

Faith is being almost certain of something.

Knowing is being 100% certain of a thing.

Faith is knowing but with doubt, however small or large.

Back to empiricism, I think that it is very hard to adhere to something like this. For example if you see a news report on TV, with someone talking about something not absurd, if you hear it from enough sources you may start to believe it, because you logically feel, from past experience, I guess, that something like this had every possibility of happening. So perhaps experience is involved in you believing that something, which you hear on TV.
However, I feel that many people would believe almost anything they are told a priori and hence propaganda is known to work throughout modern history.

Your TV example is a better example of rationalism (a priori knowledge) rather than empiricism – the idea of people believing propaganda has more to do with examination of facts vs. belief of opinions.

2. My current opinion about god is that I feel that the idea is absurd, and that it was made up by humans to control others and their hip pockets with the notion of “hell” and punishment for not doing exactly what “god” says. I feel that this idea evolved though, to give people comfort outside their miserable, meaningless existence.

Interesting. I was under the general idea that secularists were under the notion that ideas of god were more the lack of knowledge they possessed, leading them to believe god was the result of natural and sociopolitical phenomena, not to control populations for political ends (although your example has clearly become the norm).

I don’t see where you get your latter sentence unless you’re qualifying it as a hypothesis of your own (drawn on what seems an empiricist bias).

3. Solid proof would involve a combination of empirical evidence and confirmation of this proof by others. It would require god to show himself to everyone, and prove that he is god by performing an absurd, never before witnessed act, while under this veil of god. If he is god, I am sure he knows of a way to get people to believe in him.

Hmm. So, your criteria for proof is based entirely on empiricism to determine God’s existence.

Do you think that(empiricism only)’s good criteria?

[note: continued at Junaman thread – Empiricism vs. Rationalism – Pt 2.]
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5 thoughts on “Junaman thread – Empiricism vs. Rationalism – Pt 1

  1. Pingback: Junaman thread - Empiricism vs. Rationalism - Pt 2 « Fundamentalist Christianity

  2. I’m coming into this discussion extremely late, but I thought I’d add my two cents.

    I’m not a fan of the empricist methodology. Allow me to clarify: I believe that taking in data in proper empirical fashion is important, as the data may indicate trends, but I do not believe that this practice can be extended into the larger framework of an “all-inclusive methodology.”

    My background is in Mathematics, and I use math in my everyday decision-making (as I believe we all do, even if unaware). Yes, I believe that probability theory can come into play, so there is a statistical component to life, but there is a general sense that the rules (be they Physical Laws, Social rules, Biological limitations, etc.) have a strong and important function of placing parameters on our reality — this, in my opinion, is a good thing, meaning that what we rely on indeed conforms to our expectations on the majority of occasions, otherwise “butter might taste like butter today and taste like coffee tomorrow,” etc. This paragraph is not a tangent, please be patient.

    Within Mathematics, we can set up a framework (be it a matrix, a single equation, a formula, etc.), we can load in relationships between the given variables, and we can determine patterns. We can do the reverse as well, taking in data, and fitting the trend to a likely curve that may satisfy, to a degree, all the data (data-fitting). But the concept of parameters is not lost, even within the practice of estimating. There are certain properties and rules that will create boundaries, and as we get better at fitting the appropriate (relevant) data to our estimation, and hone our curve, we may see adjustments in that curve, but the likelihood of a completely different representation forming is, statistically, unsound.

    Why does this apply to the Empiricism v. Rationalism argument? Because a priori does not only mean capturing the discrete data, the points of reference (which empirically can, and often do, provide for interesting surprises), it also means that we are shaping this data within certain rules — we are providing for parameters, limitations and boundaries, automatically, in order to maintain a realistic reference to our personal and social schemas. We are allowed expectations based on these rules, we are allowed to form hypotheses, and even though the very important data may be received empirically, it must be formed in a rational framework.

    Example: We look at an equation — a very basic quadratic formula. Before we even begin to substitute values for the respective variables, we should know “in advance,” where the points of reference (the apex of the curve in respect to the point of origin, etc.), a general idea of the direction and angle of slope, etc. Now, map this very basic idea into a methodology. Empiricism says, “everything is a suprise — we can not form expectations prior to receiving information.” In my opinion, Empiricism has taken on a greater function than it should be allowed — it is a good practice, it is an important component in terms of knowing that suprises do occur, but it is not worthy of a general methodology because it does not allow for parameters, limits, rules, etc., to be employed in terms of one’s attitude in approaching a problem.

    I apologize if this is a late entry to the thread. I do not wish to discuss the implications this may or may not have on Religious issues, or causal determinism — I think the groundwork is flawed at the level of accepting Empiricism as a methodology, and the argument should end there. Determinism, etc., are important themes, and should be discussed, but in a sense that is divorced (in my opinion) from the Empiricism v. Rationalism argument.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  3. I’m coming into this discussion extremely late, but I thought I’d add my two cents.

    You’re welcome to join – glad to have you.

    I’m not a fan of the empricist methodology. Allow me to clarify: I believe that taking in data in proper empirical fashion is important, as the data may indicate trends, but I do not believe that this practice can be extended into the larger framework of an “all-inclusive methodology.”

    To clarify, you’re speaking of rational empiricism (i.e., the scientific method)?

    For starters, an “all-inclusive methodology” sounds excessively abstract. Again, I’m assuming, but you speak of such methodology in order to fully extrapolate past, current and future events? If so, I believe this is logically impossible.

    My background is in Mathematics, and I use math in my everyday decision-making (as I believe we all do, even if unaware). Yes, I believe that probability theory can come into play, so there is a statistical component to life, but there is a general sense that the rules (be they Physical Laws, Social rules, Biological limitations, etc.) have a strong and important function of placing parameters on our reality — this, in my opinion, is a good thing, meaning that what we rely on indeed conforms to our expectations on the majority of occasions, otherwise “butter might taste like butter today and taste like coffee tomorrow,” etc. This paragraph is not a tangent, please be patient.

    “[P]lacing parameters” bears close resemblances to the scientific method.

    Within Mathematics, we can set up a framework (be it a matrix, a single equation, a formula, etc.), we can load in relationships between the given variables, and we can determine patterns. We can do the reverse as well, taking in data, and fitting the trend to a likely curve that may satisfy, to a degree, all the data (data-fitting). But the concept of parameters is not lost, even within the practice of estimating. There are certain properties and rules that will create boundaries, and as we get better at fitting the appropriate (relevant) data to our estimation, and hone our curve, we may see adjustments in that curve, but the likelihood of a completely different representation forming is, statistically, unsound.

    Okay, so by parameters you mean limits – in terms of past and current capability as well as future capabilities. In real terms, this means you might not believe in, say, the possibilities of future human evolution, being more of a functional materialist.

    Why does this apply to the Empiricism v. Rationalism argument? Because a priori does not only mean capturing the discrete data, the points of reference (which empirically can, and often do, provide for interesting surprises), it also means that we are shaping this data within certain rules — we are providing for parameters, limitations and boundaries, automatically, in order to maintain a realistic reference to our personal and social schemas. We are allowed expectations based on these rules, we are allowed to form hypotheses, and even though the very important data may be received empirically, it must be formed in a rational framework.

    Example: We look at an equation — a very basic quadratic formula. Before we even begin to substitute values for the respective variables, we should know “in advance,” where the points of reference (the apex of the curve in respect to the point of origin, etc.), a general idea of the direction and angle of slope, etc. Now, map this very basic idea into a methodology. Empiricism says, “everything is a suprise — we can not form expectations prior to receiving information.” In my opinion, Empiricism has taken on a greater function than it should be allowed — it is a good practice, it is an important component in terms of knowing that suprises do occur, but it is not worthy of a general methodology because it does not allow for parameters, limits, rules, etc., to be employed in terms of one’s attitude in approaching a problem.

    Okay, I can agree with your point when you speak on exclusively about empiricism. But if you’re attempting to graft this as the default methodology for, say, religion, this is entirely inaccurate. Many active practitioners of religion do employ some sort of rationalism when put in a place of authority (unless they have ulterior motives, or something similar, in which case said leader speaks a lot of non sequitur).

    I apologize if this is a late entry to the thread. I do not wish to discuss the implications this may or may not have on Religious issues, or causal determinism — I think the groundwork is flawed at the level of accepting Empiricism as a methodology, and the argument should end there. Determinism, etc., are important themes, and should be discussed, but in a sense that is divorced (in my opinion) from the Empiricism v. Rationalism argument.

    Again, as mentioned beforehand, most people don’t employ empiricism as an only methodology. Even cavemen showed some sort of rationalism in drawing paintings. This is, again, excessively theoretical.

    Moreover, to say that “empiricism is flawed and therefore must be thrown out” is to pull your own rug out from underneath you. I say this because it is part and parcel in the process of socialization. As language is a function of cultural norms, so is empiricism to the development of a coherent epistemology. You can read the implications of the loss of that coherency in this post.

    Thank you.

    Same to you! Hope to hear back.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Open Thread - 150 Questions « Incompetence Inc.

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